The wisdom of King Solomon is given in the Bible:
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
The seasons of my life have varied tremendously, but I never really questioned the purpose. From an early age, I pursued a variety of activities, and my husband Jän and I have shared many interests. We have enjoyed music, camping, backpacking, riding our motorcycles and bicycles, relaxing on our boat, traveling, and have welcomed every opportunity to learn about and experience new things. But challenges have occurred throughout time that have altered these interests.
In late 1985, I began to occasionally stumble, and once in a while I would fall. I tried to ignore the situations, until the day I lost sight in my right eye. Visits to an optometrist and an ophthalmologist identified optic neuritis, inflammation of the optic nerve. Experiencing vision loss and learning the cause led to appointments with my general practice physician and a neurologist specialist. A spinal tap and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test confirmed that I had Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
MS affects each person differently. The symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary from person to person depending on which parts of the brain or spinal cord (central nervous system) are damaged. Demyelination, the loss of the myelin sheathes or covering of the nerves, and the scarring caused by MS can affect any part of the central nervous system.
MS symptoms may come and go or become more or less severe from day to day or, in rare cases, from hour to hour. Consequently, the doctors could not predict what I might expect, but within 12 months my sight had returned and the physical issues had dissipated. Regular activities again filled each day until the MS symptoms struck back with a vengeance in 1996.
Strength and agility weakened until I could no longer handle my work requirements. I had been manager of travel and meeting planning for a Fortune 500 mining company. (The Fortune 500 is an annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine that ranks the top 500 United States corporations as ranked by their gross revenue.) I had written numerous manuals, introduced cost-saving travel practices, and had traveled to all of the company’s mines and offices throughout the United States and in other countries, giving training seminars and maintaining budgets. But after 20 years of service, in 1999 I was granted permanent disability because of the physical challenges of MS.
Purpose #1: One month after leaving work on permanent disability, the company suffered a hostile takeover by another mining company. I would have been unemployed without compensation. Without work, time was given to me to participate in church activities. Having been raised in Seventh-day Adventist families, Jän and I had built upon the foundation of our early training and, in 1991, had opened the Renaissance Church near Sedalia, Colorado. More time could now be given to its activities and to assist Jän with his work, at that time, as managing editor for LandMarks.
At this time, the neurologist explained that I was experiencing Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (SPMS). SPMS is characterized by a steady progression of clinical neurological damage with or without superimposed relapses and minor remissions and plateaus. People who develop SPMS will have previously experienced a period of Relapsing/Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS) which occurred for me in 1985–1986. Over the months, I began to depend on a wheelchair as walking and standing became more difficult.
Everything changed June 27, 2008.
It was a very hot summer afternoon. Completing errands in Castle Rock, Colorado, before the Sabbath hours, we had stopped for Jän to make copies needed for the church. As he parked in front of the UPS store, saying he would be only five minutes, I asked him to open one of the side doors of our van for fresh air, rather than leaving the van’s engine running to provide cooling from the air conditioner. I was sitting in my wheelchair that was secured to the lift, facing the two side doors. He opened one of the doors, exposing my left arm and about one-fourth of the left side of the wheelchair and my body. That is all I remember.
Jän returned to the van within five minutes wondering why people were standing around it, but when he made his way through the crowd, he saw me lying on the ground in a pool of blood with more blood gushing from my eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. Only the one door of the van was open; the wheelchair was securely in place; our black Labrador was still lying peacefully beside it.
A lady who had seen me fall from the van had stopped her car immediately and called 911. Within moments an ambulance arrived and rushed me to Sky Ridge Medical Center Emergency Room in Lone Tree, a suburb of Denver, Colorado.
When Jän arrived at the ER, CAT scans (computerized axial tomography frequently used to evaluate the brain, neck, and spine) and x-rays had already been taken, revealing that the right side of my skull had been crushed and the artery just above the right ear was severed, hence the continual bleeding. Several bones on the right side of my face were also fractured. A doctor approached Jän and told him that I had only two hours to live. He explained that three options were available: (1) do nothing, (2) insert tubes into the skull to drain the fluid and relieve the building pressure, (3) surgery. Jän asked him to do what he could to save my life. The doctor was the head neurological surgeon for the hospital. Only God could have placed him at the hospital, late in the afternoon (4:00 p.m.), before a holiday weekend.
Following Jän’s request, the doctor, using his cell phone, began calling the doctors and nurses needed for the procedure. Jän heard the doctor’s words, stating such things as, “I know you are leaving on vacation … ,” “I know you are not on call … ,” “I know it is a holiday weekend … ,” to “I need you here immediately.” Soon he had a seven-doctor neurological surgical team and needed assistants in place.
Surgery began in less than the predicted two hours of life I had remaining. Seven bone fragments, embedded in the right side of my brain, had to be carefully removed. The severed artery was a challenge. It was so torn that the doctor had difficulty piecing it together. During the six-hour craniotomy, my heart stopped twice, and six units of blood and four units of plasma were given to help retain life.
When I was taken to recovery, the doctor told Jän that I had a fifty-fifty chance to survive the procedure but would either be a vegetable or need to live in a nursing home the rest of my life. When Jän next saw me, my head was secured in a Styrofoam base and strapped down so it could not move; my body, legs and arms were also strapped to the bed so nothing could move, and I was in an induced coma. He has told me that in addition to my immobility, 25 different tubes were in my body for different purposes, controlling every function of my body.
In the Intensive Care Unit, I remained in the coma. A nurse sat outside my room continually, monitoring me. The medical staff routinely reduced the medication that induced the coma, but my autonomic nervous system would not begin to function. My Living Will states that I am to receive no extra medical assistance after seven days. I know now that many prayers were ascending for me during these days. The afternoon of the sixth day, when the medication was reduced, my autonomic nervous system responded; I began breathing on my own.
Purpose #2: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest … be in health.” III John 1:2.
Twenty days later it was necessary to transfer me from the hospital to a rehabilitation center. Jän was able to have me admitted to the Castle Rock Care Center (CRCC) in Castle Rock, Colorado, just 13 miles from our home.
I remember nothing of the hospital days, and the first days at CRCC are a blur. My vision was not clear; I could not focus to read. I could not speak, and as the words eventually formed, they were jumbled and made no sense. My thoughts were scrambled. My body was very weak—especially my legs—after no movement during those hospital days.
Physical and occupational therapy began immediately. Slowly, physical strength improved, my brain began to heal and memory gradually returned. In addition to the physical therapy and occupational therapy, I regularly met with a speech therapist who focused on my speech and language skills.
Each day at CRCC brought improvement and opportunities in many ways. By mid October 2008, I was dismissed to return home! During my last session in therapy, the physical and occupational therapists read to me what they had written in their notes the first time I met them. They each had written that I would never leave the facility!
Purpose #3: “I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 30:17. God performed a miracle. He had work for me.
During the months of my recovery, Jän faithfully was by my side. While I was in the hospital, friends from our church and from the community would sit by me while he took some time to eat or rest. He also spent time with me each day at the Care Center, usually sharing a meal during his visit and becoming acquainted with other residents. I enjoyed visits from many friends while I was at CRCC—they came from many parts of the United States and from Ghana.
As my thoughts became clearer and I learned about my accident and the miracle of life, I began to pray, “Father, I don’t know why I’m here, but thank-you. Show me what to do.” He has provided numerous opportunities.
Purpose #4: I conduct knitting circles twice a month at CRCC. It provides time to chat with the group and share the joys God has given each of us. Jän and I also spend many Sabbath afternoons visiting residents at CRCC. The director of activities recently asked Jän to present a Bible study twice a month! He is using the Steps to Life studies prepared by Marshall Grosboll. I assist the attending residents and help read the Bible texts. We have provided large print Bibles for each attendee to use if they are able. The residents attending frequently express their appreciation of the studies.
Purpose #5: We have also accepted volunteer positions to assist the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra. Several of its members have played at the Renaissance Church, and others are asking when they may play their instruments there. We are continually given the opportunity to answer questions about the church and to share from the Bible what we believe.
Physical challenges have turned the activities I enjoyed previously into memories. The backpacks and camping gear are stored in the closet. The motorcycles and bicycles are dusty in the garage. Travel is difficult. But God has directed me to activities with Jän where we may share Him and experience His purpose for us.
“Every action of ours in befriending God’s people will be rewarded as done unto Himself.” Maranatha, 317.
Anna Schultz is again an integral part of the Landmarks team. She may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.